ਚੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਕਲਾ – Chardi Kala 

What is Chardi Kala and why do we need to know it?

The words ਚੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਕਲਾ (Chardi Kala) are recited by Sikhs in the Ardaas (prayer) every time. 

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮ ਚੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਕਲਾ,  

O Kartar! through the Naam given by Guru Nanak, may we remain in Chardi Kala, 

ਤੇਰੇ ਭਾਣੇ ਸਰਬੱਤ ਦਾ ਭਲਾ॥ 

and may all be blessed according to Your Will. 

Sikh Ardaas

When we recite some words so frequently, its important to know the proper meaning and context, and where to say these words and phrases. Words without context lose their meaning. Chardi Kala is a quite common term used by Sikhs, but they may have different meanings of it like – infinite optimism, good physical and mental health, having happy life, being in high spirits etc. In this article we will explore the real meaning of Chardi Kala, in the context of Gurbani and Sikh history. 

ਚੜ੍ਹਦੀ (Chardi) means rising, ascending, uplifting, or inspiriting.  

ਕਲਾ (Kala) means power or force.  

So literally, ਚੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਕਲਾ (Chardi Kala) means uplifting or inspiriting power.  

The Chardi Kala is tightly connected with Bhana (Kartar’s Will). The people who believe firmly in Kartar – the Creator, will accept His Will. They know that whatever is happening is happening according to the Will of Kartar, so nothing wrong is happening and the Justice will prevail. Temporarily we may feel that something that happened is terrible. But eventually it will turn out to be something not that bad. So, the people of faith will not give too much significance to the events occurring, as good or bad. But instead, they will adapt according to the circumstances and will have the tendency to let it go. They remain calm and composed during challenging times. 

Guru Arjun Dev Ji was martyred by the Mughals by making him sit on the Tatti-Tavi (hot plate) and pouring the burning sand on his head. But the Guru remained calm and immersed in Naam in remembrance of Kartar and recited the Sabad: 

ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ   

Your every act seems so sweet to me O Kartar. 

ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਾਂਗੈ ॥੨॥੪੨॥੯੩॥  

Nanak begs for the treasure of the Naam, the Name of Kartar. ||2||42||93|| 

 M5 – SGGS – Ang 394 

People in Chardi Kala may be going through tough times, physical pain, and suffering, but they do not lose faith in Kartar and remain firmly committed to Sikhi. 

Bhai Mati Das (sawed alive), Bhai Sati Das (burnt alive), Bhai Dyal Das (boiled alive), Bhai Taru Singh (scalped alive), and the mothers whose babies were cut into small pieces in front of them, they all went through tough times, but they remained in Chardi Kala and never gave up their faith in Sikhi. After sacrificing their babies, the mothers recited the evening ardaas (prayer) – Dear Kartar, the day has passed in your Bhana (Will), please give us the strength to remain in your Bhana in the coming night. Living one day at a time makes us free from the worries of the future and brings Chardi Kala into our lives. 

The third stanza of the Sikh Ardaas (prayer) is all about remembering those great Sikhs who remained in Chardi Kala even in the face of extreme torture and death. 

ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਸਿੰਘਾਂ ਸਿੰਘਣੀਆਂ ਨੇ ਧਰਮ ਹੇਤ ਸੀਸ ਦਿੱਤੇ  

Think of and remember the unique service rendered by those brave Sikh men and women, who sacrificed their heads but did not surrender their faith in Sikhi;  

ਬੰਦ ਬੰਦ ਕਟਾਏ  

Who had themselves cut to pieces from each of the joints of the body;  

ਖੋਪਰੀਆਂ ਲੁਹਾਈਆਂ  

Who had their scalps removed;  

ਚਰਖੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਚੜੇ  

Who were tied and rotated on the wheels and broken into pieces;  

ਆਰਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਚਿਰਾਏ ਗਏ  

Who were cut by saws;  

ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰਿਆਂ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਲਈ ਕੁਰਬਾਨੀਆਂ ਕੀਤੀਆਂ  

Who sacrificed themselves to upkeep the dignity of the Gurdwaras;  

ਧਰਮ ਨਹੀਂ ਹਾਰਿਆ  

Who did not abandon their faith in Sikhi;  

ਸਿੱਖੀ ਕੇਸਾਂ ਸੁਆਸਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਿਬਾਹੀ  

Who kept their long hair till their last breath with firm faith in Sikhi;  

ਤਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀ ਕਮਾਈ ਦਾ ਧਿਆਨ ਧਰ ਕੇ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਜੀ ਬੋਲੋ ਜੀ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ॥  

Remember their sacrifices and deeds for Sikhi; utter Waheguru!  

Sikh Ardaas 

    

You can read the full Ardaas following this link Sikh Ardaas 

In the eighteenth century, Sikhs were actively hunted and prosecuted by Mughals. They lived in jungles, slept on horsebacks, ate handful of roasted grams a day, had full meals only occasionally. But they remained in Chardi Kala, because they were connected to Naam and Gurbani. Gurbani is the uplifting force, which keeps us in Chardi Kala. Gurus stressed the importance of Gurbani Keertan (singing) so much that when Mughal army was chasing Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh ji recited Asa Di Vaar (Gurbani) in the morning even in the battlefield. 

At one time Mughals declared that they have eliminated Sikhs from the face of the earth. When two Sikhs Bota Singh and Garja Singh living in jungle heard this, they establish chungi (toll tax), collecting toll from the highway going to Lahore to send message to the Mughal government that Khalsa is still alive and has established the rule and charging the toll tax on the highway.  

Sometimes we face hardships and sufferings according to our past Karma (actions). Prolonged suffering can challenge our faith and we may question the Justice of Kartar. The person who does not practice Naam Simran (remembrance of Kartar), does not realize the protective support of Naam. He may go into ਢਹਿੰਦੀ ਕਲਾDhaindi Kala (dispiriting force) without proper guidance and help. In ignorance he may fall into the trap of Pakhandi Deras (dwelling of hypocrites), where he gets false hopes and make-believe solutions, wasting time and money. But his suffering does not go away. That may lead him into drugs, depression, or other mental health issues. 

But the people who practice Naam will remain in Chardi Kala, face the challenges head-on and prepare themselves to weather any storm. They treat the challenges of life as an opportunity to reflect on life, to find weaknesses to rectify, and change the course of life if needed to strengthen the character and rejuvenate the faith in Sikhi.  

In summary, we can say that Chardi Kala is the inspiriting state of mind, which cannot be shaken even by the most brutal circumstances. If the mind is fearless and remains connected to Naam, then nobody can frighten us by torturing our body.

ਮਨੁ ਨ ਡਿਗੈ ਤਨੁ ਕਾਹੇ ਕਉ ਡਰਾਇ ॥ ਚਰਨ ਕਮਲ ਚਿਤੁ ਰਹਿਓ ਸਮਾਇ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Whose consciousness remains immersed in the Lotus Feet of Kartar; whose mind does not shake (in adversities); what can be gained by frightening his body (by tortures)? ||1||Pause||

M5 – SGGS – Ang 1162

Chardi Kala is different than optimism. An optimistic person may expect a positive outcome and may overlook the realities of life and hence may be under-prepared to deal with situations. A person in Chardi Kala does not look for miracles, but instead is a realist who accepts reality as it is, does everything in his control to deal with it, and bears the pain and suffering with grace, and does not lose faith and hope. 

Chardi Kala is not having good physical, mental or financial health. A person suffering from a serious disease or poverty may be in Chardi Kala, and a person physically, mentally, and financially healthy may be in Dhaindi Kala. Health, disease, wealth, poverty, success, failure etc. are events or circumstances of life. Chardi Kala is how we respond or react to these events and circumstances. Our reaction will determine if we are in Chardi Kala or not. 

How to be in Chardi Kala 

Gurbani is the real inspiriting power of the Sikhs. When we read Gurbani, we learn to remain in Bhana (Kartar’s Will) and remain detached from maya (temporal world). Being detached does not mean to stay away from maya, but to remain unaffected by its influences. From Gurbani and the sangat (company) of Gursikhs (Guru oriented souls), we learn spiritual practice balancing our responsibilities. We develop strong character, and passion to serve the society. Being in the company of the Gursikhs is very important to remain in Chardi Kala. Our company makes us what we are.

Develop tyar-bar-tyar mentality 

The Guru gave the concept of tyar-bar-tyar (always ready to take on any challenge). It is the mindset to be always ready to accept and face any challenges. To develop tyar-bar-tyar mindset we need time, practice, persistence, grit, and faith. A Sikh must be the ਧਾਰਨੀ – dhaarni (adherent) of nitnem (daily bani reading) according to the Rehit Maryada (code of conduct). When we go through easy times, that is when we should reflect, practice, and prepare for the tough times.  

The modern warfare is the game of drones, satellites, keyboards, and remote controls. In the social arena we must be tyar (ready) to fight misinformation and false propaganda in the media. Artificial Intelligence has made it even more urgent to be technologically prepared. We need to learn mass communication, and cyber security to protect ourselves from propagandists and hackers. 

In the modern world pens and keyboards are more potent than guns and tanks. In the civic societies having rule of law, we need lawyers and judges to protect legal rights, journalists to report the facts and bring out the truth, historians to write the correct narrative for the future generations. 

When we go through tough times, the preparations and the tyar-bar-tyar mindset will enable us to take on the challenges head-on, rather than running away from them. We remember Guru and Kartar with full faith and can deal with the challenges with grace and mental toughness. 

ਜਾ ਕਉ ਮੁਸਕਲੁ ਅਤਿ ਬਣੈ ਢੋਈ ਕੋਇ ਦੇਇ  

When a person is confronted with terrible hardships, and no one offers him any support, 

ਲਾਗੂ ਹੋਏ ਦੁਸਮਨਾ ਸਾਕ ਭਿ ਭਜਿ ਖਲੇ  

When his friends turn into enemies, and even his relatives desert him, 

ਸਭੋ ਭਜੈ ਆਸਰਾ ਚੁਕੈ ਸਭੁ ਅਸਰਾਉ  

When all support has given way, and all hope has been lost 

ਚਿਤਿ ਆਵੈ ਓਸੁ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਲਗੈ ਤਤੀ ਵਾਉ ॥੧॥  

If he then come to remember the Supreme Creator, even the hot wind shall not touch him (nothing can harm him). ||1|| 

M5 – SGGS – Ang 70 

Live a purposeful life 

Life on earth is not just a random phenomenon or coincidence. Kartar sent us here with a purpose. We must identify what that purpose is. If you do not know what that purpose is, it is ok, just keep asking yourself, identify your strengths and weaknesses, how you can contribute to the world, and one day you will find your purpose.  

Purposeful life will inspire us to wake up in the morning and reflect on our purpose and to march towards our goals. Worldly goals are needed to move us forward during our lifetime. But the real purpose should be beyond our physical presence on earth. According to Gurbani the ultimate purpose of our life is Gobind Milan (to meet Kartar – the Creator) by connecting to Naam, and to get out of the cycles of birth and death. 

ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ  

This human body has been given to you. 

ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ  

This is your chance to meet Gobind (Protector of the Universe). 

M5 – SGGS – Ang 12  

Live your own life 

Most of the pain and suffering is because we do not live our own life. We keep trying to live somebody else’s life. Everybody who came into this world is unique and has a unique purpose and role to play. Instead of being jealous of or trying to mimic somebody else’s life, recognize your own strengths, gifts, and skills which you can use to contribute to the world. Try to become better than you were yesterday instead of trying to be better than somebody else. Keep improving yourself, without being jealous about others’ success. You can have somebody as your ideal who you want to be like and who can inspire you, without being jealous. Remember that you are responsible for your life, and you must take charge of making it whatever you want it to be.

ਬਿਸਰਿ ਗਈ ਸਭ ਤਾਤਿ ਪਰਾਈ ॥ ਜਬ ਤੇ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਪਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

I have totally forgotten my jealousy of others, since I found the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Gursikhs. ||1||Pause||

ਨਾ ਕੋ ਬੈਰੀ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਗਾਨਾ ਸਗਲ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਮ ਕਉ ਬਨਿ ਆਈ ॥੧॥

No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone. ||1||

ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀਨੋ ਸੋ ਭਲ ਮਾਨਿਓ ਏਹ ਸੁਮਤਿ ਸਾਧੂ ਤੇ ਪਾਈ ॥੨॥

Whatever Kartar does, I accept that as good. This is the sublime wisdom I have obtained from the Guru. ||2||

ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਰਵਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਏਕੈ ਪੇਖਿ ਪੇਖਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਗਸਾਈ ॥੩॥੮॥

One Kartar is pervading in all. Gazing upon them, beholding them, I blossom forth in happiness. ||3||8||

M5 – SGGS – Ang 1299

Bring nature into your life 

We should strive to live as close to nature as possible. Kartar lives in nature. The trees, birds, rivers, lakes, mountains will inspire us to connect with Kartar’s creation. By living in nature, we learn the vastness of creation, the beauty and diversity of life, the dangers, opportunities, excitements, and interconnectedness of living and non-living things in the universe. By looking deeper in nature, we will see Kartar Himself permeating in His creation. 

ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਵਸਿਆ  

I am a sacrifice to You, O Kartar, pervading everywhere in the nature. 

ਤੇਰਾ ਅੰਤੁ ਜਾਈ ਲਖਿਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ  

Your limits cannot be known. ||1||Pause|| 

ਜਾਤਿ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਮਹਿ ਜਾਤਾ ਅਕਲ ਕਲਾ ਭਰਪੂਰਿ ਰਹਿਆ  

Your Light is in Your creatures, and Your creatures are in Your Light; Your almighty power is pervading everywhere. 

M1 – SGGS – Ang 469 

Have a good friends circle 

Having the company of good friends makes us happy and we feel more connected to the world. Friends circle should be small but with deeper relationship and understanding. Friends, with whom we can share our life story; celebrate our successes and joys; get support during our struggles, failures, and hardships. True friends are the ones who will stand beside us in easy and tough times. Finding true friends is not easy, but be selective to be surrounded by friends, who can help you progress on your life-journey. 

ਜਿਨੑਾ ਦਿਸੰਦੜਿਆ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਵੰਞੈ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਅਸਾਡੜੇ ਸੇਈ  

The sight of them banishes my evil-mindedness; they are my only true friends. 

ਹਉ ਢੂਢੇਦੀ ਜਗੁ ਸਬਾਇਆ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਵਿਰਲੇ ਕੇਈ ॥੨॥  

I have searched the whole world; O servant Nanak, how rare are such persons! ||2|| 

M5- SGGS – Ang 520 

Learn martial arts 

In Sikhi, we have the concept of miri-piri, where miri is the temporal life, and piri is the spiritual life. A Sikh is a spiritual being at heart with great deal of patience, but iron fists to defend his honor and stand for the righteousness. Its mandatory for a Sikh to learn Gatka (martial art), and other techniques of warfare. To encourage the Sikhs to be tyar-bar-tyar, Guru Gobind Singh Ji organized the war games and mock-fights on the Holla-Mohalla festival in Spring.  

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਜੋ ਚੜੇ੍ਹ ਤੁਰੰਗ  

Khalsa is the one who rides the horse. 

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਜੋ ਕਰੇ ਨਿਤ ਜੰਗ। (੫੩)  

Khalsa is the one who is ever ready for righteous war. (53) 

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਕੋ ਧਾਰੈ  

Khalsa is the one who adorns the arms. 

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਦੁਸੰਟ ਕੋ ਮਾਰੈ। (੫੪)  

Khalsa is the one who exterminates the vicious. (54) 

Bhai Nand Lal Ji  

Exercise regularly 

Exercise is very important to remain physically and mentally fit. In the modern world of comfort, it is essential to have some fitness routine. Guru Angad Dev Ji established the akhara (wrestling arena) to encourage Sikhs to be physically fit. In fit body resides fit mind. If we are physically and mentally fit, it will help us remain in Chardi Kala. 

Remember Kartar all the time 

The source of Chardi Kala is Gurbani and Naam Simran (remembrance of Kartar). It was the support of Gurbani and Naam, which kept the Sikhs in Chardi Kala, even in the most challenging times. When we spiritually connect with Naam, we cultivate the virtues of fearlessness, benevolence, truthfulness, contentment, universal brotherhood, and love for all. With practice, we can develop the habits and mindset to keep Kartar always in mind. Our thoughts and actions guided by Gurmat (Guru’s wisdom) will enable us to meet Kartar. Our mind will be awakened from the slumber of maya (worldly influences). 

ਸਿਮਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਿ ਗੁਰੁ ਅਪੁਨਾ ਸੋਇਆ ਮਨੁ ਜਾਗਾਈ ॥੨੩॥  

Remembering, remembering, remembering my Guru in meditation, my sleeping mind is awakened. ||23|| 

M4 – SGGS – Ang 757 

Remember death all the time 

Death is the reality, which we all should remember, but we usually forget, thinking that its way out in the future. But we do not know which breath will become our last. If we remember death and acknowledge the fact that we are going to die one day, we will accept this fact gracefully and then we will not be afraid of death. Then we will think about how to die, so that we never have to die again. This will cause us to remember Kartar all the time, which will get us out of the cycles of birth and death. 

ਜੋ ਆਇਆ ਸੋ ਚਲਸੀ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਈ ਆਈ ਵਾਰੀਐ  

Whoever has come, shall depart; all shall have their turn. 

ਜਿਸ ਕੇ ਜੀਅ ਪਰਾਣ ਹਹਿ ਕਿਉ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਮਨਹੁ ਵਿਸਾਰੀਐ  

He who owns our soul, and our very breath of life – why should we forget that Master from our minds? 

ਆਪਣ ਹਥੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਵਾਰੀਐ ॥੨੦॥  

With our own hands, let us resolve our own affairs (while we still have the breath in our body). ||20|| 

M1 – SGGS – Ang 474 

Author:

Tej Partap Singh

Related Articles:

Core Beliefs of Gumat | Gurmat Process and Techniques | What Sikhi says about life? | Sikhi and drugs – What Sikhi says about the drugs?